It will never happen to me

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Tornado Safety

weather fatalities chart, see 74 year list for text, click for larger version

With tornadoes it can be easy to fall into a complacent mind-set of “it will never happen to me” because those only happen in Tornado Alley – that region between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. This is an incorrect and dangerous assumption as was indicated in the Hampton Roads, VA area recently where there was damage incurred throughout the region from a couple of tornadoes. Tornadoes rank third on the National Weather Service’s list of weather events that cause the most fatalities (see chart). Therefore, everyone needs to know the importance of taking severe weather and tornado warnings seriously due to the fact that tornadoes can occur anywhere there is severe weather (convective environment – mostly in conjunction with thunderstorms).

Tornadoes, the most violent natural hazard, are rotating, funnel-shaped clouds formed from thunderstorms. Strong winds are their most destructive aspect, with gusts reaching as high as 300 mph. The damage path can be a mile wide. Tornado season is generally Spring through Summer, but tornadoes can occur any time of the year. They most often occur at the tail end of a thunderstorm. Eighty percent of tornadoes occur between noon and midnight. While some areas are more prone to tornadoes than others, they can occur anywhere, so it is best to be prepared.

Here are some institutions that provide helpful safety tips:

- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),

- National Weather Service (or local news agencies)

- American Red Cross has a very short and to the point break down:

About, Before, During and After

- American Red Cross checklist. (site reference)

How to Prepare for a Tornado

  • When a tornado threatens, take immediate action. Do not delay!

  • Stay informed and know tornado terminology:

    • Tornado watch — Weather conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado. Stay tuned to the radio or TV for more information and further instructions.

    • Tornado warning — A tornado has been spotted. Take shelter immediately.

  • Identify a place in your home and at work to take shelter in case of a tornado:

    • A storm shelter or basement provides the best protection.

    • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.

    • In homes and small buildings, go to an interior part of the lowest level—closets, bathrooms, or interior halls. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

    • In schools, nursing homes, hospitals, factories, and businesses, go to the pre-designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually best.

    • In high-rise buildings, go to an interior small room or hallway.

    • Leave areas with high, open-roof enclosures such as auditoriums, gymnasiums, aviation hangers, etc.

    • Leave mobile homes or vehicles, and go to a substantial shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head.

  • Conduct frequent tornado drills.

  • Obtain an emergency supply kit and make a Family emergency plan.

What to Do If There Is a Tornado

  • Take shelter immediately in the designated room.

    • If you are outside, find shelter immediately or, if shelter is unavailable, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.

    • If you are in a car, stop immediately and find shelter. Do NOT try to drive through a tornado.

    • Stay tuned to radio or TV for information and instructions as they become available.

    • Stay in your shelter until the tornado has passed.

    • Once you are in a safe place, report to your command if you are military or civilian government personnel or a member of the selective reserves.

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